We’re Still Having this Debate?

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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17 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    How many people who might have once decided to surrender have instead kept fighting because of these things?

    How many people who might have said “I don’t have a dog in this fight” regarding US occupation have decided that, yes, they do (and, of course, once fighting will not surrender)?

    How many soldiers are dead that didn’t have to be because of this?

    The people defending “enhanced interrogation” are defending some weird idea of a ticking time-bomb under the chair of not only a baby but *YOUR* baby and then when they get you to agree that you’d torture someone who would bomb *YOUR* baby, they feel like they have just justified the beating death of a guy without any real connection to anybody traded by a militia to the US occupation for money.

    If I happened to torture a guy who was going to bomb my baby, I’d be willing to be put on trial for that. I’d take the stand. I’d look the jury in the eye and say “and I’d do it again”.

    The people defending enhanced interrogation tend to not want trials, however. Sometimes they dismiss even the need for military tribunals.Report

  2. Katherine says:

    It needs to happen, but it’s not going to.

    And “minimal possibility” of torture being resumed? You’re overwhelming more optimistic than I am. Torture, under the name of EIT or another convenient euphemism, will be resumed either in 2012 and 2016, depending on when the Republicans get back in. They’ve never admitted it’s wrong and aren’t going to.Report

  3. Jay Daniel says:

    I’ve come to see this whole issue differently in the past month. Over Christmas, my dad gave me a Vince Flynn book called “Extreme Measures.” Apparently it was a NY Times #1 Bestseller. The heroes engage in “enhanced torture techniques,” and generally, the villains (other than the terrorists themselves), are a bunch of namby-pamby DC lawyers and politicians trying to score political points against the patriotic men and women keeping America safe.

    The thing is, for some reason it did not dawn on my how attractive this worldview is to many, many people until I read this book. I mean, I’m admitting to being a complete idiot here. Maybe it’s because I live in San Francisco and am surrounded by progressive young urbanites, but reading this (pretty lousy) book snapped me back to reality: our country is deeply divided over the necessity and moral blameworthiness/praiseworthiness of EITs. I guess “24” should have also been a clue. But anyways, the book was an entree into the minds of a good chunk of American citizens.

    What does all that have to do with anything? Well, this post seems to discount the possibility that a jury would refuse to convict these people. What happens then? If we are utterly (and evenly) divided on what government agents should and shouldn’t do with detainees, how can we possibly have a trial that reflects societal mores? Forget what the “law” says — at the end of the day, jurors will vote what they feel, and I think there’s a very real possibility that our “laws” could be nullified in a trial.

    So, my response to this post is: maybe the Broderites are right. Not for the reasons they think they are, or you think they think. But because holding a trial in such a divided society might do more damage to the cause of maintaining a real, substantive national policy against the use of EITs in the future.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jay Daniel says:

      I’d be okay with a jury letting these guys off after a fair trial. That’s what juries are for. If it comes out that the 12 folks picked said “hey, he was trying to keep us safe” then that’s what happens (I remain a fan of jury nullification).

      But let there be a trial!Report

    • JohnR in reply to Jay Daniel says:

      No. The Broderites are absolutely and clearly wrong. Your objections (if I may summarize) are that (a) It will make the ‘pro-torture’ part of America fight with the ‘anti-torture’ part of America and create hatred and division and make it difficult to get anything done politically, and (b) What if the jury lets the defendants off?
      In response to (a), I would merely ask in which country you’ve been living these past couple decades (yes, I know it can actually get worse) – here in the US, it’s now become accepted that assassination is a form of political dissent, and that major on-air personalities can call for the President’s assassination (using weasel words, of course, so they can disavow them as required). Lies are the common currency of politics and punditry. There are no negative consequences. How has that Broderite ‘bipartisan’ thing been working out in Congress?
      As for (b), then why bother having jury trials at all? Simply hang the suspects (after all, if they were innocent, they wouldn’t be suspects, right?) or let them go and be done with it.
      In real terms, since we have never forced the issue, this country is now a country that tortures prisoners. We are on a plane with Argentina, the Soviet Union, North Korea, etc., etc. Perhaps we have stopped, perhaps not – how will we know? We no longer care that our lives are followed, our phones and emails intercepted, our “anti-government” meetings spied on (or maybe it was some other people, in which case it’s all right). When we don’t want to know the messy details of what we are each and all responsible for, then we are no longer living in anything like a democratic system. As for voting – poo! Have none of you ever raised a child? The ‘forced-choice’ is a venerable tool; control the choices and you control the child, who happily chooses as if his choices matter.
      At any rate, if our juries could nullify our laws by refusing to enforce them, then we have far greater problems than simply a fear of prosecuting people who seem quite clearly to have broken the greatest laws we have (and been proud of it).Report

  4. Michael Drew says:

    Unexpectedly, a comment I made in E.D.’s first post dealing with Brown and health care is entirely relevant here. In its entirety:

    There is one [other] thing to record about Scott Brown (not HCR-related). In his victory speech the other night, Senator-elect Brown said that Obama is “giving new rights to terrorists,” and that one reason he was going to Washington is because he wants to oppose Obama’s “giving new rights to terrorists.”

    It’s worth not letting that fall by the wayside amid hopes that Mr. Brown represents a new kind of Republican.

    It is.Report

  5. Rufus says:

    I absolutely agree with the argument of this post. However, from my ex-pat vantage point in Canada (i.e.: maybe I’m missing something) it’s hard to hear that there’s a serious issue that America needs to move forward on, which is being stymied by an endless counterproductive debate that’s seemingly being maintained for its own sake, and not think that this is pretty much true of every serious issue that America needs to move forward on.Report

    • Rufus in reply to Rufus says:

      Another thought goes through my mind when I hear these people like Theissen talk; and I usually keep it to myself because I know it sounds really douchey and I hate it when people say this sort of thing… However! I’ll often think to myself that this is one area where I’m pretty clear on what the GOP wants moving forward. A lot of these people talk about how the ‘hands are tied’ of our good patriotic interrogators and I think, okay, here’s one area where I know what they want to do. In a lot of areas: the stimulus, health care, energy, etc. I feel like I know more what the Republicans don’t want to do more than what they want to do. It doesn’t bother me because I often don’t want to do the same things! However, I just assume that they’ll return to power, and probably sooner rather than later. It’s unnerving, but I feel like this is the one area where I have a good sense of the changes that will be made on Day 1. I realize that’s probably tremendously unfair, but there you go.Report

  6. Sam Hutcheson says:

    Trials aren’t scoffed off as “too divisive” because of some lingering doubt about the legality of the tortures. That these “techniques” are torture is essentially decided. By domestic law and international treaty, they are. As such, trials would be “too divisive” because they would be an admission by the judicial branch that the executive branch committed war crimes. That would put members of the previous administration at risk of being tried for said war crimes. That, in turn, is what would be “too divisive” for America. Because it is inconceivable to a huge swath of Americans, not a few of which live in The Village, that an American politician might be held to account for crimes committed against mere “terrorists.”Report

  7. It’s divisive because the GOP would take any measures, up to and including shutting down the federal government, to prevent such trials or even any official investigations that must result in them.Report

  8. North says:

    Agree with everything. We need sunlight on this affair more than just about anything.Report

  9. Bo says:

    The only potential long-lasting national impact from a finding that the techniques are torture is that there will be zero possibility that they will be brought back, as opposed to a minimal possibility that they will.

    This seems like the nut graf. People who support enhanced interrogation want it to be brought back, an official ruling at any level that it was torture would make it almost impossible, and there’s no feasible possibility any legal body, be it court, tribunal or commission, would find enhanced interrogation was not torture. So long as enhanced interrogation remains a sort of Schroedinger’s Torture, its supporters get to keep hope that it will return.Report

  10. steve says:

    I have favored a Truth Commission of some sort so that we could find out what happened and what was learned. A trial could do the same thing, but it would be divisive. It will be portrayed as soft on terrorists. It has little to do with them and much to do with us.Report

    • Bo in reply to steve says:

      No, you see, if someone supports enhanced interrogation, then a Truth Commission is still divisive. You need to think of it as, to borrow a phrase, ‘a vector, not a scope’. If you support enhanced interrogation, then a Truth Commission isn’t a valid compromise, because it’s still a move in the wrong direction. Just because it’s less of a move in the wrong direction than a full trial doesn’t mean it’s something that people interested in moving the other way will accept.Report

    • North in reply to steve says:

      It’s poison for the torture supporters Steve. They can’t admit it, they can’t let it become public. The more the electorate finds out about this the angrier they will get. This isn’t South Africa with a populace that is worn, divided and tired and is facing a choice between forgivness and civil war. This is an issue where if all the facts come out the pro torture peeps know they’ll be run out on a rail and the whole country will applaud. Their only hope, their desperate need, is that this stays buried until either they get back into power or until the issue is academic.Report

  11. As i’ve stated before – i’m fine with investigations, trials, etc so long as they go all the way back to the founding of the CIA. Anything short of that is more about political revenge than the truth or justice.Report

  12. A.R.Yngve says:

    It’s very simple: Either you choose to be against torture … or you bow down to THIS.Report